Page images

their lamented Friend, now with GOD. On this ground of official obligation only, I shall apply myself to the work, remembering that the chief end of such a Sketch is the edification of survivors; and that, though it will be but an imperfect outline, it may, by the divine blessing, answer that purpose, because most of my hearers can improve and fill it up by their own vivid recollections of the manifold worth and excellencies of our departed Friend. For I address a Congregation to whom, in general, I may say, as PAUL to TIMOTHY, You have long and "fully known" his "doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, long-suffering, charity, and patience."

In attempting this Outline, I shall direct your attention, first, to his PERSONAL CHARACTER, as a private Christian; and, secondly, to his PUBLIC CHARACTER, as a Minister of CHRIST.

I. In reference to his personal character as a Christian, the following observations have occurred to my mind.


1. His Conversion from sin to God was clear, sound, and decided. Of this you can have no doubt, after the extract which you have heard from his Diary, written at the time. In that extract, the great essentials of a true conversion are strongly marked :— Conviction of actual sin, of the natural depravity which is its source, of the moral helplessness which is its concomitant, and of the awful exposure to divine wrath and endless ruin, which is its effect:-Godly sorrow, the result of this conviction, working repentance towards GOD, with earnest prayer for pardon and grace, and other fruits meet for such repentance-Faith in the testimony of the Gospel concerning our Lord JESUS CHRIST, and in Him as declared, in that testimony, to be the only and the all-sufficient Saviour of sinners, able and willing, by his atoning blood, and almighty SPIRIT, to save unto the uttermost those who are 66 without money or price," without merit or might of their own :-And, finally, in consequence of this act of faith on CHRIST as "the LORD our Righteousness," the reception into the heart of the promised SPIRIT, both as "the Comforter," witnessing to the believer his pardon, and adoption into God's family, and thereby filling him with a peace which passeth understanding, and as a Sanctifier, working in him a death unto sin, and a new birth unto righteousness, which are evidenced by habitual holiness of heart and life. Such was the conversion of MR. BENSON, as described, briefly and in substance, by his Diary, and as I have had the pleasure repeatedly of hearing him describe it, more fully and circumstantially, in conversation. From this conversion flowed all his subsequent excellency as a Christian; it was this " grace of God, bringing salvation," that in fact made him a Christian, planted in him the clements of all christian virtues, and prepared him for every good word and work.

2. The grace thus received he habitually retained; and in it he

increased with the increase of God. He rested not in the first principles or rudiments of christian doctrine or experience, but went on unto perfection, walking in CHRIST whom he had received, and fighting the good fight of faith; and he was found, as we trust and believe, in the possession of that entire "sanctification of the SPIRIT," on which he often strongly insisted, as essential to our final salvation. Some of his dying words to me were, "We must not only be pardoned and accepted through CHRIST, but also, for his sake, and by his SPIRIT, fully renewed, and made partakers of the divine nature." For a considerable period, indeed, his finished preparation for a better country, that is, an heavenly, was manifest to all who knew him. He often spoke, in strong terms, of the spiritual benefit which he had lately derived from preparing for the press the earlier volumes of a new Edition of the Christian Library: and it was very apparent from his conversation, that the re-perusal of that excellent Collection of experimental and practical Divinity, had been greatly blessed to his soul. I will quote here the words of one, whose name, could I be permitted to mention it, would add the greatest weight to her testimony:

“He diligently sought, and attained in an eminent degree, that transformation of mind by the renewal of the inner man, which made him meet to share the inheritance of the saints in light. Of late years, his conversation among his friends often reminded them of his growing meetness for glory; and his approaches to our FATHER'S Throne in our social interviews, discovered such an entering into the holiest through the Blood of the Covenant, as caused many of his friends to think that our LORD was preparing him for open vision. He walked by faith, and for some considerable time before he joined our elder brethren, he seemed to live in the element of love.”

3. In looking at what I conceive to have been the peculiar characteristics of MR. BENSON's personal piety, I cannot but particularize the advantage which it derived, as to its stability, its beautiful uniformity, and its general efficiency, from his having so carefully studied, in reference to his own interest in them, the Evidences and the Doctrines of Divine Revelation. In these branches of religious knowledge, his understanding was thoroughly cultivated, and well-principled. He knew why, as well as "in whom," he had believed; and thus laid the foundation for a remarkably firm and unshaken confidence in the Word, the Grace, and the Providence of GOD, which, sustained by divine influence and power, was to his soul like an anchor sure and steadfast, and almost set at defiance all the subtlety and force of temptation, on such subjects. Of him it might eminently be said, "In understanding he was a man." This gave a corresponding manliness and vigour to his piety in general; and having become habitual, perhaps influenced, in part, the tone of his feelings and conversation in VOL. I. Third Series. JANUARY, 1822.


his last sickness, which was that of strong faith, rather than of strong excitement, and exhibited most prominently a calm, settled, and tranquil confidence in a SAVIOUR, on whose merit, might, and faithfulness he had long reposed such implicit reliance, that he never thought of doubting their continued exercise in his favour. On one point, connected with this article, MR. BENSON was wont to express his opinion with peculiar decision; I mean, the propriety and necessity, in these days of rebuke and blasphemy, of fortifying the minds of young people, and of Christians in general, against the assaults of infidelity, by an accurate acquaintance with the Evidences, external, as well as internal, of our holy Religion. And he was always equally decided, as to the apostasies from religious profession, and other mischievous consequences, which result, in very many cases, from neglecting to inform the judgments of persons who appear to be the subjects of divine awakenings, or of other gracious and hopeful affections, and from their want of more careful instruction in christian doctrines and duties. On this principle, he strenuously enforced on all Christians, the perusal of the Holy Scriptures; and recommended catechetical labours to Parents, and other Teachers of the Young, as essential to permanent success.

4. MR. BENSON was distinguished by remarkably strong and realizing impressions of the eternal world, of the brevity and uncertainty of time, and of the insignificance of those things which are seen and temporal, except as they stand in connexion with the things unseen and eternal. I think I have met with no man who appeared so powerfully to feel, and who so affectingly described, the supreme importance of that everlasting state, to which we are hastening. Whether he was ever a close student of the Practical Works of the great RICHARD BAXTER, I have no means of ascertaining; but he strikingly resembled, in this particular, that extraordinary man, and invaluable writer, who pre-eminently lived and acted under the feeling that he was "a dying man among dying men." From these lively apprehensions of eternity resulted, by the divine blessing, MR. BENSON'S holy deadness to this world, in which he greatly excelled, and has left to all who knew him a most illustrious example. Like “the spirits late escap'd from earth," he, even while yet among us, seemed to have "the truth of things full blazing on his eye," and "look'd astonish'd on the ways of men, whose life's whole drift is to forget their graves." To love this world, so as to seek, supremely or anxiously, its transitory honours, or pleasures, or wealth, appeared to him a thing, not only injurious, but absolutely ridiculous; and I have sometimes seen him ready at once to laugh at the absurdity of such conduct, and to weep over its criminality and danger. And by his

own habitual self-denial,-his mortified life,-his extraordinary disinterestedness, and his abstinence from every thing like greediness of filthy lucre, or making, in any mean or dishonourable sense, a gain of godliness, and of his influence in the Church of CHRIST, for himself or for his family,-he evinced the sincerity of those feelings to which he often gave utterance in reference to these subjects. I shall here again quote the impressive testimony of one of his oldest and most judicious friends.

"I was not personally acquainted with him till 1773. He was then a most devoted and spiritual young man. A few years afterwards, he was appointed for the Bradford Circuit: his popularity was at that time surprisingly great; but his deep humility kept him from the snares to which the just partiality of his friends, and the injudicious praises of some of his hearers, exposed him. Wherever his preaching was published, crowds of our Yorkshire friends came from all quarters; and though in following years he was often stationed in our principal Circuits, every added year seemed only to increase the estimation in which the people held him, both as a public and private character. In regard to the first, thousands knew him well, and all could bear their testimony, that he was an 'able minister of the New Testament.' As to the second, his excellence was best known and appreciated by his relatives and most intimate friends; but his deadness to the world was visible to all. From early life he imbibed the spirit of a pilgrim, and he wore a pilgrim's garb: all who saw and conversed with our dear departed Brother, could not but acknowledge, that though in the world, he was not of the world. He was not satisfied without obeying the apostolic direction, 'Be not conformed to this world."

5. From the same general views and feelings, wrought in him by the HOLY SPIRIT, which produced so remarkable a deadness to this world, resulted another prominent excellence in the character of our venerable Friend; I mean, his extraordinary Diligence in the improvement of time, and his assiduous application to the studies, and other labours,' connected with his calling and station. He did not declaim on the emptiness of the world, and cry out, "Surely every man walketh in a vain shew, surely they are disquieted in vain," with a view to excuse himself from a serious and unremitting attention to the duties which he owed to that world, and to the important relations by which he stood connected with it. Nor did he, because he felt himself a stranger and a pilgrim, allow himself to trifle with his work, and indulge in inglorious ease and sloth. What he was in his Circuits, while an Itinerant, in this respect, I can only judge from the analogy afforded by his subsequent diligence, and from the uniform testimony of others; but since his settlement in London, I have had the means of personally knowing his intense and unwearied activity in his official occupations. He was truly "in labours more abundant." He was indeed greatly favoured in a con

stitution of body, which was very unfairly represented by the feebleness of his outward appearance; for it was more than ordinarily robust and vigorous, and continued to be so, till a very late period of life. But it was a still greater blessing, that he knew the responsibility attached to such a talent, and was "in his element when he was in his work." Probably, like many other aged Ministers, he might, in the later stages of his life, carry this generally laudable feeling to an extreme. It is possible, that if he had, for a few years past, been willing to relax and moderate his exertions, his various labours would have ultimately gained by their protracted duration more than they would have lost by the restriction of their daily amount. But he knew not how to spare himself; and it was no uncommon thing, even of late, for him to occupy his study, with but few and inconsiderable intervals from literary and pious toil, from four o'clock in the morning, until ten or eleven at night.

6. MR. BENSON was eminent in that important part of purity of heart, which consists in Simplicity of Intention. He often urged on others, and by special prayer and frequent self-examination endeavoured to cultivate in himself, a constant regard to the authority of GOD, and a supreme desire to please and glorify him, in the whole conduct of life. In this endeavour, there is reason to believe, he was greatly succeeded by the HOLY SPIRIT; So that his Brethren, if ever they allowed themselves humbly to think that he was, when he differed from them on any matter of public business, erroneous in judgment, gave him implicit credit for singleness of eye, and never reverenced him more unfeignedly than when they felt themselves compelled to dissent, in any instance, from his conclusions or recommendations. No man, perhaps, exercised a more general, or a more deserved and beneficial influence, over his friends and associates; because every one who knew him was satisfied of his unimpeachable integrity, and universal conscientiousness.

7. The Benevolence of our departed Friend ought not to be overlooked in this sketch. Sympathy with the afflicted and distressed was not, however, with him so much a matter of mere feeling, as of principle and obligation; but when satisfied that the duty existed in any particular case, he entered on it with zeal and manifest affection. The grace of God had disposed him to put on bowels of mercy. Where himself only was concerned, he did not appear to me to be a man of quick sentiment, or easily roused to tender emotion; but the sorrows and sufferings of others always moved him to pity. Though his personal habits, I believe, were frugal, from conscience towards GOD, his heart and his hand were liberal. To his friends he was hospitable; to the poor and destitute he was willing to communicate. There was nothing by which tenderness of spirit appeared so soon

« PreviousContinue »